One fateful day about ten years ago, I sat down in front of my laptop and wrote the first post for Minimal Student about embracing change. Back then, as a fresh faced 18 year old, I had little idea about who I was or who I wanted to be.
I just knew the cluttered life I was living wasn’t for me and I had some things to say about that. Most of it wasn’t particularly insightful, but after a decade of documenting my thoughts and reflections, my attitude toward life has evolved with me.
Practising a life of minimalism has taught me a lot. It has shaped who I’ve become and who I’ll continue to be in the future. I’m glad I discovered it when I did, but if I were to talk to someone just starting out, there would be a lot I would want to tell them…
1. Minimalism starts with yourself
When you wake up and realise things aren’t working the way they are, that you need to make a change. You decide to take responsibility for getting what you want out of life. The letting go begins first inside you, and goes from the inside out.
2. Decluttering stuff is easy, decluttering life is hard
A lot of blogs and Youtube videos about minimalism talk about things like clearing out your wardrobe or how to store things neatly, but what’s not as fashionable to talk about is that it’s easier to donate a sweater or label boxes than it is to say no to a lot of the things in life you used to say yes to without thinking. Minimalism is about all the things in life that you don’t make you happy, not just stuff.
3. Costs and distractions come in many forms
Most people don’t think hard enough about the price they really pay for distractions. Buying too much stuff doesn’t only cost more money or rent/mortgage to fit it in your house, it costs time to earn and all the opportunities that you could have had instead. Scrolling through the news or spending time on social media or generally doing things that don’t add to your happiness takes an emotional toll people don’t even realise.
4. Most things are replaceable, the best things in life are not
When you have given away stuff you thought you might need one day but ended up not missing it at all, and repeated that a few hundred times, you’ll realise that those are the kinds of things that people work so hard for but don’t really matter in the end. It’s the things you can’t buy or that you can’t ever get back once lost that are truly valuable.
5. Minimalism isn’t just about taking away
It’s not about getting rid of stuff so that you can have a tidier house. It’s about making room for the good things in life, those irreplaceable things—for memories and experiences that add to your happiness, relationships you would have otherwise neglected, and for opportunities and lessons that will shape you in to a better person.
6. Minimalism is a happiness philosophy
With the study and practice of minimalism, you discover the ingredients of happiness—how to find contentment, how to value quality, how to feel abundance, how to be mindful of small moments, redefine success, and how to be grateful. Indeed, learning to be happy is one of the hardest things you can do.
7. Minimalism is an ongoing practice
The first stage of getting out of the cycle of thinking buying stuff will make you happy is pretty difficult, but once you’ve gotten out of that mindset, the harder part will be staying off the hedonic treadmill. It doesn’t end with a weekend of tidying up. Your practice is making dozens, if not hundreds, of small decisions every day to not slip back into old habits.
8. Minimalism gifts you time
The best thing about minimalism is that it gives you your time back. Where once you spent it on working to pay for fancy cocktails or a house or car that’s flashier than you can afford, now you can take the time to do things you enjoy, like taking care of yourself, or doing things you enjoy with the people you love.
9. Minimalism gifts you freedom
When you let go of caring so much about what other people think you, or needing to prove yourself over and over again, the biggest burden you didn’t know you were carrying your whole life feels lifted away.
10. Minimalism is yours
Your definition and purpose of minimalism is unique to you, and will change over time. You’re not ‘doing it wrong’ if you don’t have less than 100 things or whatever measurement someone made up. There’s no such thing as a true definition for minimalism because it’s different for everyone at different times in their lives, don’t feel you have to follow arbitrary rules to be defined as a minimalist. Minimalism is completely up to you.
Ten years ago, I embarked on a journey without a destination. To be honest, I still don’t know where I’m going or where I’ll be. Minimalism isn’t a magic wand that’s supposed to take you somewhere special. Rather, it’s an ongoing realisation that the special place you’re looking for is right here, right now.